Best Rock Albums: The Year 2000
Best rock albums? What about the blues? Here in the world of Bonamassa, we talk a LOT about the blues. But it’s key to remember that Joe is a blues rocker. As a result, Joe is just as much a part of the rock world as he is the blues world. I’ve written quite a bit about classic rock. But I have focused less on the modern and contemporary era of rock music. Thinking about this, I was inspired to begin a new series of posts. Starting with 2000, I discuss some of the best rock albums of 2000.
Best Rock Albums #5: Modest Mouse – The Moon and Antarctica
The Moon and Antarctica is the third LP by Modest Mouse. The main band is a guitar-bass-drums power trio. However, the arrangement is augmented with an interesting array of sounds including lap-steel guitar, violin and banjo. The album has a cold, dense, isolated feel for the most part. It explores themes of remote location, space, our place in the universe, isolation and loneliness. Musically, the sound of the album is made distinctive by the sharp, harsh tone of Isaac Brock’s vocals and the distorted electric guitar sometimes painting over acoustic strumming. The album also tends to swing from shorter, poppier rockers like the forceful leadoff track “3rd Planet” to longer, spacier and icier soundscapes like “The Cold Part.” In the end, The Moon and Antarctica is a great work and one of the best rock albums of 2000, but also helped pave the way to their even-better follow-up, the wittily titled Good News For People Who Love Bad News.
Best Rock Albums #4: Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven
Godspeed You! Black Emperor is generally considered to be one of the leading bands of the post-rock subgenre. It features mostly traditional rock instrumentation to create less traditional, mostly instrumental music. Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven has been likened to a more subtle Pink Floyd album. It focuses on sonic textures and longer form songwriting. This album breaks down into four tracks. Each of them is longer than 15 minutes. Post-rock bands generally are of the philosophy that traditional rock has lost much of its revolutionary power. As a result, new forms are needed to be created to shake up the established musical order. But rather than getting harder, faster, and louder, they got softer, slower, and quieter. I’d generally recommend this album to anyone who is a fan of Pink Floyd’s more abstract works and longer epic compositions. Without a doubt, one of the best rock albums of 2000.
Best Rock Albums #3: Grandaddy – The Sophtware Slump
Another album that is seen by some as a concept album, Grandaddy’s sophomore effort “The Sophtware Slump” was highly critically acclaimed. It is quite an earnest, touching album. With its tinges of both country and electronic music, it is an eclectic alternative rock album. It has been compared with artists as diverse as Electric Light Orchestra, Neil Young, and Radiohead. Grandaddy has the stones to ask, “Did you love this world and did this world not love you?” in their spacey, somber and haunting opening cut “He’s Simple, He’s Dumb, He’s the Pilot.” The album relies less on instrumental virtuosity and more on songcraft, tone colors, and general feel. Grandaddy is a perfect representative of the post-punk indie rock scene of the turn of the millennium. The moving “Jed the Humanoid” is musically morose but also has a bit of a comic bent. Jed the robotic humanoid becomes undone by drinking lots and lots of alcohol and fizzing out. Perhaps the machines are not so different from the real humans anymore. But they help this album land on my best rock albums list!
Best Rock Albums #2: Radiohead – Kid A
Radiohead had already released one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the 1990s with their third LP, OK Computer. Kid A is arguably even a stronger effort. It is certainly more innovative when it comes to changing the traditional rock sound. It experiments with electronic sounds and utilizes lots of Pro Tools to achieve mesmerizing, spellbinding effects. However, it never sacrifices the beauty of the music or the brilliance of the songwriting. When the album opens with the robotic, flattened and distorted vocals of Thom Yorke and that otherworldly keyboard sound, you feel like you are transported to another planet. On the other end of the spectrum is the tortured but positively uplifting “How To Disappear Completely.” It features droning acoustic guitar and sweeping string orchestra. The somber but soaring closing cut “Motion Picture Soundtrack” will surely have you brimming with emotion. Like its predecessor, OK Computer, Kid A deals with themes like technology, isolation, and alienation, and even the threat of disaster. But it escalates them. Stretches them. It inserts them even deeper into the music itself. It’s one of my favorite albums, and certainly one of the best rock albums of the year.
Best Rock Albums #1: Joe Bonamassa – A New Day Yesterday
Joe Bonamassa’s stunning debut album was proof positive to the world that blues-rock was not dead. From the blazing opening riff of Bonamassa’s cover of Rory Gallagher’s fiery “Cradle Rock,” you know this album is going to be something special. “Cradle Rock” is loud, tough, and aggressive. Joe’s vocals match the energy of his guitar playing adeptly. “Walk In My Shadows” along with “Cradle Rock” celebrate the music of some of Joe’s biggest heroes, Rory Gallagher especially. Joe’s incendiary cover of Jethro Tull’s “A New Day Yesterday” has gotten the blessing of Ian Anderson himself. This says everything you need to know. “I Know Where I Belong,” is one of the six Bonamassa originals on the record. It reveals that the young guitar virtuoso can create a nasty riff. He can pen a thoughtful lyric. And he can craft a tuneful melody. Joe’s skills as a songwriter would continue to develop over the years. They would culminate in his amazing, all-original work Different Shades of Blue (which also makes my list of best rock albums ever!)
“Miss You Hate You” actually veers into pop-rock territory. It would be right at home on a great classic rock or even modern rock radio station. It’s “I miss you, I hate you” refrain is tailor-made for epic concert singalongs. Guest Rick Derringer joins Joe for vocal duties on the hard rocking, driving “Nuthin’ I Wouldn’t Do.” The song also features one of Joe’s best, most explosive solos on the record. The exquisite Warren Haynes’ tune “If Heartaches Were Nickles” is augmented by the beautiful organ playing of legendary southern rocker Gregg Allman. With A New Day Yesterday, Joe blasted his way onto the blues-rock scene like a raging tornado. He brought with him an explosive array of note-perfect covers and some breathtaking original songs. More than anything, he played mind-blowing guitar solos. It had been years since blues-rock had seen anything even resembling the sort of force that Joe Bonamassa revealed himself to be. He also keeps great company, with legendary producer Tom Dowd as the album’s skipper. It would be the start of an unbelievable career for an unforgettable musician. And is easily one of the best rock albums of 2000.
– Brian R.
Click here to purchase Joe Bonamassa’s A New Day Yesterday.